Samson, Isles of Scilly

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Enys Samson
Looking from the grassy shore of Tresco, across the calm water, to the low twin hills of Samson
A view of Samson from Tresco
Samson is located in Isles of Scilly
EtymologySamson of Dol
Coordinates49°56′00″N 6°21′10″W / 49.9332°N 6.3529°W / 49.9332; -6.3529Coordinates: 49°56′00″N 6°21′10″W / 49.9332°N 6.3529°W / 49.9332; -6.3529
OS grid reference25
ArchipelagoIsles of Scilly
Area0.15 sq mi (0.39 km2)
United Kingdom
Civil parishTresco

Samson (Cornish: (Enys) Sampson)[1] is the largest uninhabited island of the Isles of Scilly, off the southwestern tip of the Cornish peninsula of Great Britain. It is 38 hectares (0.15 sq mi) in size.[2] The island consists of two hills, North Hill and South Hill, which are connected by an isthmus on which the former inhabitants built many of their sturdy stone cottages.[3] Samson was named after Samson of Dol.[4]


The twin hills of Samson were formerly associated with breasts, in a similar way to the Paps of Jura in Scotland and the Paps of Anu in Ireland. There are large ancient burial grounds both on the North Hill and South Hill.[5][6]

The island was inhabited until 1855, when the Lord Proprietor Augustus Smith removed the remaining population from the island.[7] By this point, the population was found to be suffering from severe deprivation—particularly due to a diet of limpets and potatoes—and consisted of only two families: the Woodcocks and the Webbers. Smith then built a deer park on the island, but the deer escaped from their stone walled enclosure, and some attempted to wade across to Tresco (at low tide). In August 1933 a major fire occurred which was put out by the staff of Major Dorrien-Smith, by digging ditches to stop the spread.[8]

In recent times the area has become a protected wildlife site. The island is home to many different birds, such as terns and gannets, and many wild flowers. In 1971 the island, along with the nearby islands of Green Island, Puffin Island, Stony Island and White Island, was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for its biological characteristics.[9]


  • 1669: one family[10]
  • 1715: only three men fit to carry arms
  • 1751: two households
  • 1794: six households
  • 1816: forty people
  • 1822: seven households (thirty-four people)
  • 1851: three households[11]
  • 1855: Augustus Smith removed the remaining inhabitants which consisted of two families.

Visiting the island[edit]

Boat trips to Samson are regularly available May through September. There is no quay, so visitors disembark via wooden plank. The remains of the old cottages can be explored, and there are also the remains of Smith's deer park and prehistoric entrance graves.[12] There are no amenities or services available, but guided walks are led by local experts.[13]

Literary associations[edit]

The island is featured in the children's story Why the Whales Came by Michael Morpurgo. In the book, Samson is under a curse that needs to be lifted.[14] The island also featured in Armorel of Lyonesse by Walter Besant.[15] Many have made reference to Webber's Cottage on Samson as Armorel's house.[3]

Samson features in the fantasy novel Stone In The Blood by Colin Jordan & David England. It is visited by Peter in 1974 and also in the Iron Age, where the hills are home to the community of Salt Crones.

In the medieval story of Tristan and Iseult, the island appears as the place where Tristan defeats and kills the knight Morholt, uncle of Iseult and brother-in-law of the King of Ireland.

The island also features in the Ann Bridge novel The Dangerous Islands.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Akademi Kernewek - Henwyn Tyller".
  2. ^ Samson, Isles of Scilly.
  3. ^ a b Tourist information Archived 2009-02-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Orme, Nicholas (2000). Saints of Cornwall. OUP Oxford. p. 228. ISBN 978-0198207658
  5. ^ Samson, South Hill Chambered Cairn. The Megalithic Portal.
  6. ^ Samson, North Hill. The Megalithic Portal.
  7. ^ Tourist information Archived 2009-02-02 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ "Heath Fire Threatens Farm House". The Cornishman and Cornish Telegraph. 14 September 1933. p. 8.
  9. ^ "Samson (with Green, White, Puffin and Stony Islands)" (PDF). Natural England. 12 December 1986. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
  10. ^ Samson.
  11. ^ "1851—Transcript of Piece HO107/1919 (Part 7)". Cornwall Online Census Project (Freepages, Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  12. ^ "Samson, South Hill - Chambered Cairn in England in Scilly Isles". Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  13. ^ "Scilly Walks Visits Samson". Council of the Isles of Scilly. 3 October 2008. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  14. ^ Why the Whales Came review.
  15. ^ Mr. Besant's Story.; Armorel of Lyonesse. A Romance of To-day review. August 11, 1890. New York Times.

External links[edit]